How Is Your “Shoulding” Leading To Conflict?

Do you find yourself “shoulding” on others more now than before? Are you feeling increased tension between you and co-workers, family, or friends? How is your “shoulding” leading to conflict? Consider how you respond when someone “shoulds” on you.” Even when a “should” comes from a trusted advisor, how do you react?

What is “shoulding”? It is deciding for someone else what they should be doing, saying, or thinking. “Shoulding” is steeped in judgment, fed by emotions and opinion, and is leading to conflict within or between other parties. We are naturally emotional and judgmental beings as humans. Those two characteristics make us humans wonderfully complex. Yet, they will exacerbate conflict if not kept in check. Whether you are doing the “shoulding” or being “should” on, conflict is often the result.

Do you see both sides?

According to Kenneth Thomas, conflict is “the condition in which people’s concerns, the things they care about, appear to be incompatible.” And, the ways you go about addressing your concerns will differ from how someone else addresses similar concerns. Humans get caught up in determining which way is right versus wrong. “Consequently, “shoulding” is the process of imposing your method over another, considering only your point of view as the right way.

We as human beings are hardwired to connect in-person, face to face. That is what makes the water-cooler conversations meaningful because they improve our social cohesion. It is hard to overstate the power of that connection. And it isn’t easy to achieve that through a screen with remote workforces. It becomes easier to dehumanize co-workers, friends, and family members without that connection. And, it is easier to impose our method of addressing their concerns and judging them negatively when there is disagreement.

How can you reduce “shoulding” and conflict in the workplace, teams, families, and between friends?

First: Connect with your humanity. You may ask, “what does that mean?” According to Merriam Webster, humanity is “the quality of being kind to others,” practicing compassion. So try to understand others first rather than being understood. Practice being kind versus being right.  Because doing so will lead to having a conversation rather than forcing agreement.

Second: Use your humanity to challenge your perspective. Perspective is the ability to “view things in their true relations.” I recently talked with someone who could not understand why anyone would have an issue wearing a mask. For example, I shared the challenges kids have to learn non-verbal communication and read people’s faces when they are covered. So this individual imagined being a kid and learning what she already knows now without seeing faces. She gained understanding. So that helped her challenge her perspective.

Third: Commit to stop “shoulding” on others or yourself and reduce conflict. Use this season of Thanksgiving to be grateful for the people with whom you disagree. What can you find to like about them? How do they help and support you? What can you learn about why they feel the way they do? Please recognize that you and they have different ways of seeing and doing things. Because of that, you will disagree about some things. That does not make them wrong and you right; it just makes you both different.

Remember, you are not alone in this experience. We can all improve by staying out of judgment and extending grace to one another, including me. When you invest energy in getting beyond “shoulding” and conflict, you will see improvement in your relationships, your productivity, and your mental and physical well-being.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your organization manage conflict.